Billing Descriptor

A billing descriptor describes a payment and helps the cardholder identify the transaction on his or her bank statement. If the cardholder doesn’t easily understand the billing descriptor and recognize the transaction, a chargeback might be initiated.

Quick Facts About Billing Descriptors

  • For most processors, the default setting for billing descriptors is the merchant’s legal business name. If the business’s legal name is different from the “doing business as” name, the descriptor should be updated to reflect something customers are familiar with.
  • Descriptors can be anywhere from 20-25 letters, however, the length of the descriptor will depend on the issuing bank. Some issuers will truncate the descriptor so the full message won’t be displayed. This can cause confusion. Abbreviations can be used to avoid truncated descriptors and convey a more accurate message.
  • Descriptors might include the word “pending” or another similar phrase until the transaction is settled.
  • Depending on the length of the business’s name, a descriptor could also include the business’s phone number. This helps increase the odds the customer will contact the merchant with issues instead of the bank. The phone number listed should be operational and managed 24/7.
  • Some processors offer dynamic descriptors. A dynamic descriptor will include the standard descriptor, followed by additional, transaction-specific information. For example, a descriptor would be “S&S Auto”. A dynamic descriptor would be “S&S Auto/FordTransmission”.
  • Descriptors are set on a per-MID basis. Each merchant account will have its own descriptor.
  • Issuers send prevention alerts based on the descriptor associated with the transaction. When merchants obtain new merchant accounts, the corresponding descriptors must be shared with the prevention alert vendor to activate services.
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